Monday, October 27, 2008

More photos of the Portland Taiko performance at Dorothy Fox

These were taken by Brett Oppegaard, chair of the Artists in Residence committee for Dorothy Fox's PTA, on Oct. 17, 2008.

The Columbian features Portland Taiko's residency at Dorothy Fox

This Web video complemented a front page story about the Portland Taiko residency in The Columbian on Oct. 24, 2008.

ZACHARY KAUFMAN/The Columbian Rebecca Weinberg, 10, a fifth-grader at Dorothy Fox Elementary in Camas, learns traditional Japanese drumming from Portland Taiko musicians. Fox students soaked up a weeklong artist-in-residence program given by the troupe.

ZACHARY KAUFMAN/The Columbian Dominic Delgado, 10, learns traditional Japanese drumming at Dorothy Fox Elementary on Wednesday.

And here's a link to the story:

Camas students learn beat of a different drum

Ancient Japanese drumming technique taught to pupils

Thursday, October 23 | 10:17 p.m.


CAMAS — The entire portable classroom shook with a deep rumble.
With focus, exertion and smiles all around, 14 fifth-graders pounded on 14 waist-high drums, taking their verbal cue from Michelle Fujii, performer and instructor with Portland Taiko.

“Don doko don!”

“Tsuku tsu tsuku tsu!”

“Kara ka doko don!” Fujii shouted.

In a call-and-answer cycle, students beat rhythms of loud and soft strokes, or tapped the rims with their thick wooden drumsticks, called “bachi” (bah-chee).

All this week, members of the Pacific Northwest’s lone professional Japanese drumming company are teaching Dorothy Fox Elementary students their ancient, honored craft. One class at a time. That followed a memorable schoolwide assembly last Friday.

It’s most definitely a “hands-on” experience.

The artist-in-residence visit has exposed students, kindergarten on up, to critical tenets of taiko: respect, cooperation and perseverance.

There’s no sheet music. Drummers must listen to their leader’s call for one rhythm after another. Sometimes they yell to encourage each other, to help stoke a frenzied energy.

It takes stamina and determination to cap a lengthy set with a flourish — often a long, rolling drum roll that saps forearms, wrists, shoulders. Before and after sessions, drummers bow to each other in appreciation.

They must warm up properly to prepare for the full body and soul exercise.
That’s why Toru Watanabe, 31, with the same gymnast’s grace as his lithe companions, led the class through fluid callisthenics that featured stretches, poses, even a self-applied facial and neck massage.

“I should do this every morning,” said Julie Struyk, a fifth-grade teacher who limbered up, too.

As Fujii, 34, told students, “We believe that our rhythm comes from the ground. It comes from the ground all the way to our fingers.

“It takes our whole body to drum,” she said.

After a solid hour-plus of learning and playing, Struyk’s charges departed, a bit weary but quite pleased.

“It was fun, just the energy of it,” said Schyler Black, 10. He elaborated: “I’m a percussionist. I just like banging on stuff.”

Fujii, Watanabe and Taiko colleague Teresa Enrico, 50, travel to reach between 15,000 and 20,000 schoolchildren in a single school year. And not just in the Northwest: Their most recent stint was in Lake Placid, N.Y.

Thanks to $8,000 raised by the Dorothy Fox Parent-Teacher Association and a $2,000 grant from the Camas Educational Foundation, Fox students got the full immersion treatment.

“These sorts of weeklong (stays) are so rare,” Fujii said. They’re also physically demanding, but with a payoff.

“It’s real easy to introduce the drum. When you approach the drum for the first time, it rewards you,” Fujii said. “As we see the kids’ excitement and energy, it really feeds us.”

Howard Buck: 360-735-4515 or

Do Jump!

Gave two performances at Dorothy Fox Elementary on Feb. 2, 2009, funded by the Camas Educational Foundation, and sponsored by the Fox PTA.

History of this program since 2008

Recent residencies:

* Alan Adams, spring 2008, gave a storytelling workshop combined with a clay mask-making activity. Each student created a character and a mask to represent that conception. The children then were able to keep the masks and bring them home for display.

* Michael Allen Harrison, spring 2008, the professional composer and pianist from Portland spent a week with the kids, creating original songs for each class. Harrison recorded a CD of the music, with the kids providing the vocals, and performed a school-wide concert to show off the accomplishment.

We would like to document the history of this program as far back as we can. But we need your help. If you know about any of the artists-in-residence activities prior to 2008, please send that information (and pictures, if you have them) to: